Field Stories

Meet the winners: eLearning Africa photo competition 2014

Aaron Parsons_UK_Rags to RichesThe 2014 winners of the annual eLearning Africa “Through Your Lens” photography competition caught our attention with powerful images that portrayed how communication tools and information technologies can foster integration, inclusion and diversity.

Kwesi Brako followed up with this year’s winners to learn more about their experiences travelling throughout Africa and what inspires their photography.   


Aaron Parsons – 1st Place Winner

(Winning image above)

What do you know about Africa?

I don’t think I know enough about Africa, you want to know about everything on the planet you live on and I think I’ve got a lot to learn. Living in the UK you get a diluted stereotype of the continent and its population. Whether it’s through the news or even blockbuster movies, Africa is often portrayed in a disturbing and desperate light. However, if you look a little harder you do see the things that make Africa what it truly is; a colourful, vibrant, passionate place with an incredible diversity across its vast plains and cities full of rich culture and soul. During my photography degree the highest mark I received was on a paper on the African Apartheid – I had never received a mark like it in my educational life. It was based on the photography taken during that time in Africa and I guess it stirred a passion within me that made me produce my best written work and I believe that says a lot about the kind of place Africa is.

Where have you been to in Africa and how many times?

I have only been to Morocco and I want to go there again. There was always something to photograph. It is so very different to the UK and anywhere I have been before – the colours, the culture, the smells, the animals, the people, the architecture and landscape. There was so much to see and so much to capture. I would love to visit other parts of Africa, but I admit I wouldn’t know where to start. Many people have told me how incredible South Africa is. I love photographing wildlife and nature too, so to go on a safari, although a predictable answer would truly be amazing. So, I guess, Botswana, Kenya or Zambia would be places to start.

What was it that made you visit the countries that you went to?

I was lucky enough to be sent on a photography and film assignment to Morroco to capture the surf holidays and culture, although I captured just about everything else too!

Can you talk about what you have learned and observed on your trips?

I have learned, like so many, that travelling the world can be very different even if it’s just a four-hour flight away. It was a shock to the system, in both an exciting and sometimes sad way. I love animals and to see so many stray dogs unhappy and on their own in Morocco was hard to take at times. I did meet some very happy dogs enjoying the wild though! There were some harsh realities to face but some wonderful ones too. I admired the Moroccans’ attitudes to life, always finding time to talk to each other and taking life at a steady pace (unless driving on the roads of course).

Ebrahim El Moly – 2nd Place Winner

Ebrahim El Moly_Egypt_One World

What can you tell our readers about yourself, your upbringing and where you are from?

My name is Ebrahim El Moly, I am an aspiring freelance photographer, 21-years-old, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. My life dramatically changed in 2011, when after 30 years, president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown from the presidency of Egypt by a huge marvellous people’s revolution.

The odyssey that followed was probably the best documented revolution of all times, which in certain points was on the edge of turning into a civil war. Photographs, broadcast through media, went around the world, changing the perception of Egypt from the land of the pyramids to a country of civilised citizens whom will accept no more injustice.

These changes and political instability destroyed and is continuing to challenge the Egyptian tourism industry, which is one of the main domains to find work in our country, Egypt.

All along, I decided to document the revolution through my eyes and show the reality that I am living in. I was in the streets witnessing most of the clashes, showing the braveness, fear and naivety of people fighting.

What does Africa mean to you?

If you were asking me this question a few years ago, I would tell you Africa is the civil war, and black people killing each other to earn money from gold and diamonds. And I think the same happens when Americans are asked about Egypt, they will say that we are still riding camels and living in the Pyramids!! The biggest problem is using the media to show people only the negative things in Africa and not the whole real picture with its pros and cons.

Have you travelled to any other countries in Africa, if so where and why?

I never got the chance to travel to any place in Africa before, but it will be the first thing in my plan after I get some money to cover the cost of travelling. I’m really highly motivated to help and volunteer in any organisation that can help to develop or make a positive change in the destiny of humanity or give me the chance to photograph it.

Concerning the region, I am pretty open to go anywhere. But due to me still being a student, I would just need to have accommodation and maybe my flights covered.

James Odong – 3rd Place Winner

Odongo Jamesbond_Uganda_Empowering local people with information

What can you tell our readers about yourself, your upbringing and where you are from?

I am an experienced trained journalist, who can work for both radio and newspapers. I have been a journalist for more than 10 years. I was born into a large family in Agurut Village, Nyero Sub County, in the Kumi District of Eastern Uganda. I grew up and studied in a rural area. My father, Mathias Ojakol, died in 1987 when I was still very young. This left the burden of bringing me up to my mum, Dinah Atiang, (she is still alive though she has cancer of the breast), a peasant who had no means of paying my school fees. She, however, worked very hard to ensure I completed my studies until I joined an institute to study a Diploma in Journalism. I am currently completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations and Media Management at Cavendish University in Uganda. I have lived and worked in a rural area, based in Soroti Town, which is also an area (Teso sub region in Eastern Uganda) that has experienced conflict for more than 30 years. I have passion for journalism and I am willing to learn and share my experiences.

What does Africa mean to you?

To me Africa means the land of the black, the land of conflicts, poverty and diseases.

Have you travelled to any other countries in Africa, if so where and why?

I have never travelled to any other country in Africa.

Nseabasi Akpan – Public Vote

Nseabasi Akpan_Nigeria_Learning Made Easy

What can you tell our readers about yourself, your upbringing and where you are from?

My name is Nseabasi Akpan, I was born in the ancient city of Ibadan in Oyo state, Nigeria. In 1999, I graduated with a National Diploma in Financial Studies from the Osun State College of Technology. I am a largely self-taught freelance photographer with a passion for reportage and experimental documentary focusing on football, politics, the environment, religion, African culture and heritage.

In 2004, after finishing my apprenticeship in a photo studio in Ibadan, I had to leave Nigeria for Accra, Ghana. I stayed there for months to escape my parents who were not in support of me becoming a photographer; they wanted me to be a banker because they see photography as a job for drop-outs but, for me, Nseabasi Akpan, I see photography as a tool that can be used to “voice” our society’s plight. To be a photographer has always been my childhood dream.

My work has been published in national and international newspapers, websites and magazines such as BBC Focus on Africa Magazine, Jeune Afrique, Insidetrack Abuja, Derive and The Platform.

I live and work in Ibadan.

What does Africa mean to you?

Technology development and civilisation started in Africa, there are examples of this in Egypt and Ethiopia just to mention a few countries. Africa is the most blessed continent in the world, led into ruin, corruption, an unending unrest and extreme poverty in-spite of the abundance of human and mineral resources. We Africans cannot continue to blame the West for our problems, by doing this nothing will be changed. What happened has happened! We can’t change that, but Africa must look forward and make the changes happen. We should not turn Africans into helpless infants that need the West to fix all of its problems.

Have you travelled to any other countries in Africa, if so where and why?

I have travelled to Ghana, The Republic of Benin, Togo, Namibia, Tanzania and Ethiopia for jobs, personal reasons, and to participant in photography workshops and exhibitions.

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